Nine senators implored their colleagues Thursday to consent to votes on nominees for the nearly 100 federal court vacancies, echoing the comments of President Barack Obama earlier this week that the Senate should move swiftly to confirm nominees.
"This is delay for delay's sake," Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) said on the Senate floor. "Of the 27 district court nominees confirmed during this Congress, only one has received a nay vote so far, but even she was confirmed by a vote of 96-1. Not a single Republican objected to 26 out of 27 of these nominees, yet some Republican forced them to wait for weeks or months for an up-or-down vote."
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) (pictured) attempted several times to use unanimous consent requests, a parliamentary procedure that could have allowed debate and votes on 20 nominees, but Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) objected to each of the requests, "effectively blocking any such votes," The Providence Journal reports.
"[T]hings do not always go as smoothly as you would like," Session said.
Separately, Sens. Udall and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) wrote a joint letter asking the Senate to confirm Denver law firm partner William Martinez to U.S. District Court seat that has been vacant for almost two years, The Denver Business Journal reports.
"[A]s pressing as this situation is in Colorado, I know it isn't unique. Of the nearly 100 current judicial vacancies, 42 are considered judicial emergencies, almost half," Udall said on the Senate floor.
Kendall points out that by this point in President George W. Bush's term, 61 nominees were confirmed to the federal bench, while only 36 have been confirmed during Obama's term. Moreover, Bush's nominees waited an average of 16 days between the Senate Judiciary Committee vote and the floor vote, whereas the average time for Obama's nominees is thus far 82 days.
Kendall cites these and other statistics to show that those Senators engaging in obstruction have "taken the partisan war over the courts into uncharted territory -- delaying up-or-down votes on the Senate floor for even the most qualified and uncontroversial of the President's judicial nominees."
The quality of the federal bench, and the process that results, will "unquestionably suffer," Kendall writes, if highly qualified and nonpartisan nominees are forced to put their careers on hold during a drawn out confirmation process. "And it will discourage from ever entering the confirmation process precisely the type of nominees both parties should want," he adds.
To learn more about the judicial nominations process, and monitor developments, visit our new website, JudicialNominations.org, which includes an interactive map that allows users to track nominations and vacancies by district, and links to congressional statements, videos, upcoming events and the latest nomination news.